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Sanofi ships synthetic malaria jab

French manufacturer says Gates Foundation-funded venture could widen treatment
Sanofi's gold-standard ACT made with semisynthetic artemisinin, pictured here at the manufacturing plant in Morocco, is making its way to customers. Photo: Sanofi

Sanofi has begun shipping a major batch of a new type of malaria drug which it believes could mean more people get treatment for the life-threatening condition.

The 1.7 million doses of ArteSunate AmodiaQuine Winthrop (ASAQ - fixed dose artemisinin-based combination therapy), the first antimalarial treatment to be mass-produced with semisynthetic artemisinin, will be shipped over the next few months to affected countries in Africa.

Artesunate - the active ingredient produced from semisynthetic artemisinin - and semisynthetic artemisinin itself are identical to those derived from the natural world.

At present it is found in the sweet wormwood plant, which means prices can fluctuate and supplies dwindle periodically. Making a version of this ingredient on an industrial scale should stabilise its availability and strengthen the global supply chain.

It may also be cheaper, since Sanofi says it is committed to producing semisynthetic artemisinin using a “no-profit, no-loss pricing model” and will supply it to companies which adhere to the World Health Organization's Prequalification of Medicines Programme.

The product came out of a venture funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which involved non-profit health organisation PATH and Sanofi launching commercial production of semisynthetic artemisinin at Sanofi's site in Garessio, Italy.

Sanofi has the capacity to produce 50-60 tonnes each year, which represents up to 125 million treatments, or about a third of the global annual need for artemisinin.  

The drugs were manufactured with semisynthetic artesunate in Morocco and are being sent to Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Niger and Nigeria.

“This shipment represents a critical step in improving access to effective treatments and combatting malaria in some of the most affected countries in the world,” said Robert Sebbag, vice president of Sanofi's Access to Medicines.

PATH CEO Steve Davis said: “Semisynthetic artemisinin demonstrates how public-private partnerships, tenacity, and an urgent and shared goal - saving children's lives - can drive promising innovations to transformative global scale.”

Article by
Adam Hill

14th August 2014

From: Sales, Healthcare

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